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Pitino's meeting with freshman Wally Ellenson included this information: Ellenson was competing as a high jumper on the track and field team.
“He didn’t understand at first,” Ellenson said. “He’s OK now. We’re going to talk after the season.”
Ellenson was a high-level basketball recruit out of Rice Lake, Wis. He said one reason for choosing Minnesota was an agreement that he could participate in two sports. The basketball coach signing off on that, Orlando “Tubby” Smith, is now working in Lubbock, Texas.
The two-sport schedule did put Ellenson through three hectic weeks at the end of April and into May. The daily schedule included classes in the morning, track practice, weight training and team workouts with basketball, and tutoring/study sessions.
“You’re tempted to sleep in in the morning, but you can’t do it,’’ he said.
Ellenson said “basketball is definitely my first love,” but he’s also motivated by the individual challenge of track and field.
“It’s just you,” he said. “In high jumping, you either get over the bar or you don’t. There’s nobody else to take the credit or the blame.”
Ellenson’s first event of the season was the Hamline Invitational on April 6. He cleared 7 feet, 1 ½ inches, a half-inch better than his top mark as a Rice Lake senior.
“They didn’t have a jersey for me, so they didn’t count it officially,’’ Ellenson said. “But it was a meet, and I competed, and I cleared the height, so 7 feet, 1½ is my career best.”